2013 Nissan Leaf Driving Impressions

The Leaf is fun to drive because it is so very different from driving a traditional, gas-powered car. Like all electric cars, the 2013 Nissan Leaf is extremely quiet. So quiet, in fact, that Nissan worked with a number of groups to design and build a noise generator that operates between 1 mph and 18 mph, to warn visually impaired pedestrians that a car is nearby. At speeds over 18 mph, the car is loud enough on its own to be heard.

The electric motor provides tons of silent torque to get away from stoplights, and still has plenty of power for 40-70 mph passing maneuvers. And it will go faster than 90 mph on level roads. If your goal is hyper-miling, getting the absolute most out of each battery charge, the instruments will help you all the way, including one at the top left that first completes a circle and then grows virtual trees as you drive.

The weight of the batteries can be felt on winding roads. Transient response, how the car behaves in hard left-right-left emergency lane-change maneuvers, is not nearly as good as that of the Chevrolet Volt. Leaf is front-wheel drive.

The operating guts of the Nissan Leaf are a 600-pound, laminated lithium-ion battery pack made up in a series of four cells to a module, and 48 modules, for a total of 192 batteries in the pack, made for Nissan by its battery partner, NEC of Japan. It uses a combination of lithium ion, manganese and graphite to feed an 80-kilowatt electric motor, which produces a modest but adequate 107 horsepower, and a peppy 207 pound-feet of torque.

Leaf gets an EPA-rated energy efficiency equivalent (MPGe) of 130/102 mpg city/highway rating and an estimated range of 75 miles.

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